Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc. is expanding tomato production by buying more Florida farmland, giving the company year-round field tomato production.

Del Monte expands tomato production in Florida — againDel Monte Fresh Produce Production LLC, a subsidiary of the Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte, was the high bidder in a Feb. 27 auction of 2,620 acres of farmland northwest of West Palm Beach, Fla.

Del Monte paid $15.95 million for the former citrus groves, according to a news release from the Murray Wise Associates LLC agricultural real estate marketing and financial advisory firm.

The land on the east side of Lake Okeechobee is ideal and has access to water for the production of tomatoes and other crops, according to a March 4 Del Monte news release.

“This acquisition is an excellent opportunity for us to fill in the winter gap in our local field-grown tomato program and we are now confident that we can offer our customers a continuous field-grown tomato program year round,” Paul Rice Sr., Del Monte’s vice president of North America operations, said in the release.

“This newest acquisition is further proof of our commitment to the tomato category and our intent to expand our other vegetable and melon offerings. At the same, time we plan to continue to work with our third party producers.”

By adding other crops including cucumbers, bell peppers, watermelon and squash, the purchase allows Del Monte to expand tomato and vegetable product offerings, Rice said in the release.

Last fall, Del Monte was the high bidder in a bankruptcy auction of 7,200 acres of central Florida and Virginia agricultural land, packinghouses and farm equipment formerly owned by the defunct East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., Mulberry, Fla.